“He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” Psa 106:15

by Steven Chan

27 April 2008

After having escaped the armies of Egypt, the Israelites were in the wilderness, and as recorded in Num 6:22-27, “the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” ‘  “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

What a blessed assurance from the Lord that He will bless them and keep them and He will be gracious to them and give them peace. The Lord’s presence in their midst was evident: “So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey; and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents. At the command of the LORD the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped.” (Num 9:16-18).

Yet in spite of God’s assurance and presence, the people of God still complained against God: “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Num 11:4-6). They were not satisfied with the manna that God provided them on a daily basis, and they craved for other things.

In Num 11:18-20, the Bible recorded thus: “Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the LORD who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?” ‘ ”

Moses wondered how God would be able to provide meat for so many people: “And Moses said, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ “Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them?” (Num 11:21-22)

Listen to the reply of God: “And the LORD said to Moses, “Has the LORD’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.” (Num 11:23). As recorded in Num 11:31-33: “Now a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.”

God is gracious and He will provide – and He has the ability to provide us in abundance – but note what happened to the Israelites: “But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague. So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.” (Num 11:33-34)

As noted by the Psalmist in Ps 78:32, “in spite of this they still sinned and did not believe in His wondrous works.” In Ps 106:13-15, the Bible says: “They soon forgot His works;

They did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.”

We need to learn that although the Lord is gracious and wishes to bless each and every one of us, we must learn to be faithful and not “forget His works and His counsel” – “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:31-32) – and yield to our lust, our own desires and test God just like the Israel of old. Under such circumstances, God may grant us what we want but He may send leanness into our souls! Though the Lord is gracious, we should not challenge, despise, question, nor doubt God’s good intent or promises and thereby test Him! –  lest we suffer at His hand. God’s graciousness is not to be abused and be viewed as an opportunity or licence to satisfy our own demands and cravings. We ought not to demand that God must provide us with what we want; neither should we doubt His good intent in delivering us from bondage and His rich and eternal promises toward us. We should not show displeasure or discontentment with what God has given us to date. His graciousness should not be viewed as His weakness that we can exploit! “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13)